The main event picture of SummerSlam sure has changed in the last four months. To the casual fan, whatever the matches end up being are what they’re supposed to be, but a WWE draft, a brand split, and a failed drug test have shaken things up quite a bit backstage.
Coming out of WrestleMania 32, a show that predictably ended with Roman Reigns raising the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, SummerSlam projections booked Reigns in the August main event against John Cena in what was hoped to be a symbolic passing-of-the-torch mega match. WWE pulled the plug on that program when it became obvious that the huge babyface push Reigns was getting wasn’t getting over with the fans.
Then came the brand split, causing WWE decision-makers to come up with two World title matches for SummerSlam. Either Reigns or Seth Rollins would have entered the event as champion with the other as the challenger, while the other brand (presumably always Smackdown) would have pitted two fresh contenders in a match for a newly created title. As it turned out, Dean Ambrose retained the WWE Championship and brought it with him to the blue brand while Reigns’ Wellness Policy violation earned him a slide down the card.
According to Ringside News, once the decision was made to keep the belt on Ambrose at Money In The Bank and ride his title reign into SummerSlam, his initial big summer opponent was supposed to be AJ Styles. Of course, this somewhat contradicts earlier reports that had Styles feuding with Cena for three straight pay-per-views, but many WWE officials argued for their program to wrap up at Battleground so that Styles could challenge for the top prize at SummerSlam.
Eventually, Vince McMahon and those officials determined that there was too much “unfinished business” between Styles and Cena, hence the six-man tag match including Enzo & Big Cass and The Club at Battleground. Now, the blow-off match will take place at SummerSlam, after which Cena will depart to start filming the second season of American Grit.
So now, the two World title matches at SummerSlam feature as many as three superstars who weren’t projected to be in these spots as recently as a month ago. Seth Rollins faces Finn Balor for the yet-to-be-revealed WWE Universal Championship with Balor earning the support of Vince McMahon and Triple H to the point he’s now the favorite to win the match. And Ambrose defends his title against unlikely challenger Dolph Ziggler.
With other top Smackdown stars’ dance cards filling up (Randy Orton with Brock Lesnar and Cena with Styles) for SummerSlam, the blue brand was offering a big opportunity to their crop of mid-carders. Ziggler emerged as the lucky one, but according to this report, Dolph will only be a transitional opponent for Ambrose, with the Lunatic Fringe expected to retain his title on August 21.
Whether Ambrose and Ziggler continue their feud past SummerSlam remains to be seen, but Ambrose’s next program is already set, and that brings us back to AJ Styles. Many heavyweight championship programs run through multiple pay-per-views, but what’s playing against Ziggler, and in the favor of Styles, is that Backlash on September 11 is the first exclusive pay-per-view to Smackdown. That show’s creative staff will likely want to make a big splash and Styles is the more high-profile star at this point, but that is purely speculation.
Even though Ziggler is being viewed as a transitional opponent, he’s sure going to try to hold on to his coveted spot. An impassioned promo this past week detailing his trials and tribulations was a good start, followed by a solid win over Bray Wyatt. He’ll have two more weeks to prove he belongs, aiming to steal the show at SummerSlam in the midst of a very crowded card.
[Image via WWE]